Like all boys of my generation in Britain we were bombarded with sanitised images from World War Two. This came in the form of black and white war films that by now were regularly screened on the TV, plastic figures and models from Airfix, and action comics which were sold by newsagents. The school play yard was a battlefield full of continuous machine gun fire shouted by small boys holding imaginary guns, shuddering with recoil in their hands. This painting was worked from the cover of a Tiger Christmas annual, which I had bought at a jumble sale full of tales of daring do. When I look back on it now it is amazing that more of us did not turn into homicidal maniacs.
If I was not sporting a ‘six gun’, I was blazing a trail through history righting wrongs with cold steel. I had all the kit thanks to my Dads ingenuity with plywood, wooden poles, linoleum and cloth. Prince Jason was a rare sight indeed with his chain mail made from a string vest and a cape fashioned from an old pair of curtains. Jousting tournaments were regular fixtures both in the street and my front garden. Although, after some exciting near misses with lances tied to our bicycles it was thought best to tone down our enthusiasms somewhat.
I have no idea whose house this is, but it’s certainly not mine. Perhaps I had been watching too much Play School. Brian Cant was my favourite on that show; he was always genuine and didn’t make you feel patronised. I am sure he would have approved of the hot motor parked behind the house.
As a child, I can remember being scared of snakes in films. I would feel compelled to hide behind the sofa when they were menacing anyone. Rattle snakes were particularly troublesome, because they had fangs and a rattle. So, it’s not surprising that the six guns are turned on the snakes in this image. If the cowboy in red does not shoot the snake, he will soon die, because he cannot walk. His disability is due to my ineptitude at drawing his legs, which look like he has been run over by a steam roller. This lack of understanding of three dimensions does not appear so obviously elsewhere, the open bean can and bucket have been drawn with quite competent ovals and the box of cartridges and chest show three sides of their box like forms. So, perhaps by flattening his legs I was trying to rack up the tension.
COWBOY ON HORSEBACK
A friend of my Dads had given me an old Annual that had instructions as how to make a holster out of leather. Press-ganged into the work my Dad cut up an old handbag and stitched together the best looking holster I had ever seen. Strung through a wide leather belt it took on an awesome realism. All I needed now was a gun.
Several jumble sales later a replica gun was purchased and at last the neighbourhood could be saved of any outlaws. Many hours were spent in front of the mirror practising my sneer and being the fastest draw. Killing the bad guys felt good. Falling down dead from fatal wounds was good as well. I didn’t have a horse, but the one in the drawing looks a mighty fine steed.
This clip was made in 2003, when I was obsessed with painting the sea. I was developing a method pf painting the sea, at speed, using wet-in-wet techniques and removing the wet watercolour paint using blotting paper. The over-dramatic music is Wagners Flying Dutchman in which a sea captain is doomed to sail the oceans for eternity. I felt this might reflect the drama of the subject, but it now seems rather melodramatic.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Dawn Treader were, when I was seven, my favourite books. Not that I read them myself; my teacher had read the first one to the class and I had talked my older brother into reading the others. They had made the stories come to life for me and this painting was my response to the CS Lewis tales of derring-do. I can remember painting it at school wearing a plastic apron, throwing the paint on with real abandon creating large puddles and multi-coloured shoes.
It won a prize at a local fair. I don’t remember much about the art display, but the kazoo blowing juvenile jazz band with baton twirling teenyboppers all dressed in matching tasselled white outfits haunt me still.
Sadly this is one of the few first pieces of work that have survived. I must have had a clear out aged about 10 and thrown out early stuff that I thought sub-standard. It’s a shame, since according to my parents I used to draw cowboys with hats with no brim, so effectively they had Sheriff’s stars nailed to their high foreheads.